Officially known as the “¡WEPA! Mercado del Pueblo Initiative,” the Mercado del Pueblo recently opened in Humboldt Park in February of 2021. A business initiative of the Puerto Rican Cultural Center (PRCC), the Mercado functions as an incubator, providing a free storefront space for small local startups. The Mercado aims to allow local vendors to develop their business plans; each of the vendors works with the PRCC’s small business development center and its associated programs to get their business to the point where it can become formally recognized. After one year, the current vendors in the Mercado will ideally transition to storefronts along Division Street.
The Mercado de Pueblo exists in what used to be a laundromat. However, after ten years of disuse, the laundromat was renovated and turned into a space apt to house local vendors in a manner that was socially distant to accommodate COVID-19 restrictions. Additionally, Mercado allows small vendors to sell their products regardless of the weather. Thus, residents can purchase goods they need while keeping investment within the community; this boosts the local economy and preserves its autonomy. Mercado’s goal of moving its vendors into storefronts along Division street reflects an effort to combat the gentrification affecting Humboldt Park.